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Plump Is Powerful

So you've put on a few pounds — who cares? Fashion is not a dress size

Curvy Celebrities, Vivica A. Fox

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Vivica A. Fox is an actress who began her career with roles on daytime soap operas.

New year, new size?

Plenty of my girlfriends grew up in 2015, going from a size 4, 6 or 8 to a 10, 12 or 14. In talking it over — you can bet I let them broach the topic — they cited reasons as varied as:

  • stress
  • insomnia
  • menopause
  • divorce
  • a breakup
  • lifestyle changes
  • lack of exercise
  • new medications
  • old eating habits

Some were miserable about the gain, embarking on strict diet-and-exercise regimens, while others saw the extra pounds as "the new normal," buying togs that fit their new physiques.

If your weight has crept up over the last 12 months, you can love it or lose it — that part's up to you. My role is simply to help you deal with it stylishly.

Choose realistic role models. Contrary to runway folly, not every American woman is tall and slim. Indeed, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we average out to a generous size 14 — this on a typical 5-foot-4 frame — and weigh an average of 166 pounds, with a 37-inch waist.

Curvy Celebrities, Kris Jenner

Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Kris Jenner is a television personality who rose to fame for starring in 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians.'

What to do? Emulate fashionable types who combine curves and couture: Kris JennerSalma HayekHelen MirrenVanessa WilliamsMartha StewartWendy Williams and Marcia Gay Harden. Their bold colors, chic clothes and dramatic accessories combine to make personal style statements.

Purge your mind of "should be" sizes. Your ideal weight should be whatever is both healthy and realistic for you at the current time. That's probably north of what you weighed at 40 — and certainly north of what you weighed in college. And that's just fine!

Think of your body at this new number the same way you view a basic outfit: You can adjust it by layering a few pounds on or off, such as accessories, without flipping out.

Curvy Celebrities, Marcia Gay Harden

John Sciulli/Getty Images

Marcia Gay Harden is an actress whose breakthrough was in the 1990 Coen brothers-directed 'Miller's Crossing.'

"Few" is the key word here: Set a gain limit that will let you wear your favorite jeans and dresses without resorting to double Spanx. Then cut the size tags out of all your clothes — a stylist's trick I always used on celebrity photo shoots.

Update your bras. Weight gain often shows up first in the breasts, so try this shape-shifting secret: Get fitted at a department store, but insist on a sexy, modern style. You want the least constricting bra that will give you maximum support and full coverage, with no squishing or squeezing. (That means you may have to go up a cup size.) The bra should lift your "girls" up and off your midriff for a firm front and side view, so make sure it feels snug on the loosest hook. (You may need a new band size, too.)

Buy what you love, but shop online. Brick-and-mortar stores are limited in the sizes they can offer — notoriously so when it comes to the super-popular 12-to-14 range. Yet these (and "plus" sizes) are easy to find in contemporary styles, colors and prints at websites like Eloquii, Violeta by Mango and Asos Curve. All are affordable — and much cooler than the generic stuff offered by mass-market retailers. Oh, and try to ignore the ages of the models, if you can. If not, send the site in question an email suggesting they hire more models who look like us!

For more fashion tips, check out AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine for tablets, or my new Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50.

(Video) Sneak Peek of AARP The Magazine’s Special Beauty & Style Issue: In this video, you’ll have a front row seat to learn beauty secrets from Christie Brinkley, Bobbi Brown and more. Watch now!

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